A Victory for Forests: Cargill Cuts Ties with Palm Oil Producer
Palm oil is used in the production of food, cosmetics and fuel. Palm oil companies are also responsible for atrocious environmental degradation and human rights violations. They force people from their land, burn forests, and pollute the earth all in the name of corporate profit.
For years, Friends of the Earth and our allies have pushed businesses and corporations to cut ties with abusive and destructive palm oil companies.
In December 2017, after years of campaigning by Friends of the Earth and our allies, U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill announced they suspended their business with the controversial Guatemalan palm oil company Reforestadora de Palmas del Peten, S.A (REPSA). REPSA was responsible the horrific pollution of local rivers and brutal intimidation of land defenders.
In June 2015, the company was identified as being likely responsible for massive contamination of the La Pasión river, one of Guatemala’s largest rivers. This contamination resulted in water pollution and the death of more than one hundred and fifty tons of fish, impacting over a hundred communities that depend on the river for food and finances.
In response a local community group filed a lawsuit and a court ordered REPSA to suspend operations. Immediately following the ruling, however, the group’s spokesperson Rigoberto Lima Choc, an Indigenous professor and human rights defender, was murdered. Three other members of the group were kidnapped. In the wake of these tragedies, REPSA forced the court ruling to be overturned.
An international campaign followed, as Friends of the Earth joined others to expose the multinational companies that bought palm oil from REPSA, several of which had previously committed to ridding their supply chains of human rights violators.
In June 2016, Cargill demanded REPSA implement a ‘Policy to Prohibit Violence and Intimidation.’ Cargill gave REPSA until October 31, 2017 to comply. REPSA failed to fulfill the requirements, and Cargill suspended commercial business with the company.
This victory would not have been possible without the sustained pressure of the environmental community and Friends of the Earth members who refused to let REPSA and Cargill off the hook.